Eat Well, Grow Strong!

Adolescence is the phase between childhood and adulthood that occurs between the ages of 10 and 19 years. During this time, your body and brain are going through big changes. Your body needs more calories and nutrition during adolescence than at any other time of life.

As a teenager, you may have more freedom to choose what you eat, but sometimes that can make it harder to make good choices. You might feel pressured by your friends or what you see on social media. This can make it tricky to eat well and can sometimes lead to problems with our eating habits.

General Nutrition Recommendations

3 meals + 2-3 snacks daily (minimum)

Entree + 2 sides
(Protein + carbohydrate + fat)
3 items with snacks
(Protein + carbohydrate + fat)
Caloric beverages
Caloric beverages (juice, milk, sports drinks, etc.) count as a side with meals or an item in a snack

Do not skip meals. Eat consistently throughout the day to fuel your body. Every 3-4 hours is a good rule of thumb.

Include carbohydrates, fat, and protein with meals and snacks.


All carbohydrates are broken down into a simple sugar called glucose which is used for energy by every cell in the body. They provide short-term energy. The primary fuel source for the brain.\

Examples: bread, pasta, rice, fruit, cereal, crackers, peas, corn, potatoes, caloric beverages


Provides long-term energy, supports brain development, regulates hormones, insulates the body, aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), and increases satiety (fullness).

Examples: butter, oils, avocado, nuts, seeds, meat, dairy, fried foods


Provides long-term energy, builds and repairs tissues in the body (muscle, organs, skin, bones, hair, nails, etc.), and increases satiety.

Examples: meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, nut butter, soy products, beans, lentils

Eat a variety of different foods from different food groups to make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals. Choose different foods from all macronutrient sources (carbs, protein, fat) and food groups rather than focusing on 1 or 2 food groups.

Eat meals with your family as often as possible. Research shows that teens who eat meals with their family regularly have better physical and social-emotional health, and do better in school.

Adolescent athletes, or those who are active, need more calories. These active teens burn more energy than the average adolescent and therefore need to eat more to grow properly and prevent nutritional deficiency. If you are active or play sports, you need increased portions, calorie-dense foods, and additional snacks.


Balance and Variety

There is no need to restrict or avoid certain foods. There are no “good” and “bad foods.” Food is food. Aim for a balanced diet by eating many different foods from all food groups.

Eating only fruits and vegetables is not balanced because your body would not get much fat, protein, or carbohydrates.

On the other hand, eating only pizza and cupcakes is not balanced because your body would not get many micronutrients. Try to find a balance between the two extremes.

Make food choices that support your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Enjoy nutritious foods, but stay mindful that there is room for less nutritious choices as part of a balanced diet.


Movement and physical activity

It is recommended that children ages 6-17 participate in 60 mins of physical activity per day.

Movement should be fun and enjoyable. It should not be self-punishing or as a means to earn food. You should not participate in physical activity or exercise when you are sick or not adequately nourished.

Find an activity you enjoy whether it’s walking, bicycling, boxing, roller skating, dancing, playing outside, doing yard work, taking the dog for a walk, swimming, or playing team sports.


Fueling for movement and activity

Exercise and physical activity increase the amount of energy (calories) that your body uses. When excess energy expenditure is not replaced with increased food intake, it can prevent normal growth and development. Increase portions and snacks based on how long and how intense your activity is.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Pediatric Nutrition Care Manual®. Normal Nutrition. Accessed January 3, 2023.

Do Amaral E Melo GR, Silva PO, Nakabayashi J, Bandeira MV, Toral N, Monteiro R. Family meal frequency and its association with food consumption and nutritional status in adolescents: A systematic review. PLoS One. 2020 Sep 18;15(9):e0239274. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239274. PMID: 32946506; PMCID: PMC7500660.

Neumark-Sztainer D. I’m, Like, So Fat! Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices about Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World. New York: The Guilford Press; 2005.

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